It’s no secret – social media knows everything about us. From the conspiracy theory that Facebook is listening in on our conversations to linking you with people from high school – people you wanted to forget about – all those years ago (the ‘people you may know’ feature). They tailor-make your experience to confirm the biases you already have; yet, underneath the superficial social interactions and the political drama, there is a way to find comfort in the infinite, hamster-wheel of scrolling that we’ve all probably found ourselves trapped in from time to time.
For a few years now, I’ve been the only person in my household using Facebook. Granted, I am one of only two adults that live here, but when my husband stopped using Facebook, I found myself debating if I want to delete all social media from my life. After much internal debate, I ultimately decided against it for a number of reasons – some of which include keeping updated on my friends’ growing families, staying in contact with friends or extended family that live across the country, or sharing photos of my own family and adventures. Although my husband still begrudgingly uses Instagram, he’s sure to tell me about the latest developments in the media-machines’ invasion-of-privacy tactics.
When I think about the invasion of privacy, it irks me, sure. Sometimes I want to make a statement to the almighty social-media gods and say, “Hey, you are going to miss me when I’m gone! My rebellious act will ruin you!” But alas, I am one very, very small fish in this sea. And even if you happen to be a ‘social media influencer,’ you are still a guppy that can be swallowed by a whale in an instant, and the ecosystem will remain the same. Privacy invasion is not, however, the number one reason I debated deleting social media, although it certainly played a role. No, my top reason was to eliminate the anxiety I started to feel when using social media. This was especially true in the first months of raising our twins.
Anxiety and Social Media
Young adults who are heavy users of social media report feeling increasingly isolated even though they are more connected than ever. For example:
Shakya [assistant professor in the division of global public health at the University of California, San Diego] was an author of a study published in January  that tracked Facebook use and well-being over time and found the use of the social network was negatively associated with factors including physical health, mental health and life satisfaction. Offline interactions, meantime, had positive effects. ‘Where we want to be cautious … is when the sound of a voice or a cup of coffee with a friend is replaced with ‘likes’ on a post,’ she says. (NPR)
While I don’t fit into either of the aforementioned categories, I’ve experienced firsthand the dangers of looking for comfort in a time of need yet being bombarded by images and links that tell you “you are not enough.”
For some deep reading on this, check this out.
My experience went a little something like this:
After the birth of my twins, I found myself immersed in mom groups and following so-called “parenting experts” on social media sites (this is not to knock the legitimacy of individuals who truly are experts in the field of child development and any associated field, you have my utmost respect). I would seek advice on what to do if my child didn’t drink the right amount of milk or I would read about others’ experiences with breastfeeding twins, for example.
This is when the anxiety started creeping in. I would think, “Well, my twins are not doing what other twin parent’s babies are doing. Something must be wrong.” I fell further into this anxiety trap when I would interact with other moms in a Facebook mom group that I was part of. All of our children were born in the same month of the same year. We would talk as new moms, and it was nobody’s intention to make any other mom feel “less than,” but it happened nonetheless. I felt inadequate in comparison, regardless of the intention behind the interactions, which was usually completely benign. But I knew this was toxic for me. I left all these groups and “unfollowed” any account that did not build me up as a new mom.
But I was home alone with my newborn babies, and I was, quite frankly, a bit lonely. Picking up the phone in a moment of quiet provided a way to connect with other adults. I decided I had to find a balance. One where I could take a quick break from diaper changes and bottle feedings yet not feel bogged down by the experience.
‘Zen-Space’ on Social Media
When I started to realize that my social media experience was exacerbating negative feelings I was having, I made a change; it was the start of what I like to call “My Social Media Zen Space.” My new approach was to find a niche where my social media use added value to my life.
I created a little corner within my social media experience that would bring positive interactions into my day-to-day life, and I started seeking things that would build me up instead of tear me down (whether the tear down was intentional or not). I did this by finding groups related to some of my hobbies and not to my challenges. That meant following accounts that played into my creative side: Writing, music, home-decorating, and fitness, for example. (Ok, I have an eclectic taste in my hobbies, I suppose).
After making these changes, I’ve found more peace. Seems simple enough, but it’s made such a positive impact on my well-being.
How to Find Zen on Social Media:
- Seek causes that make your heart sing – perhaps you can find a page or group where volunteering for your community is a priority. Giving always makes one’s heart feel full.
- Join Facebook Groups related to your hobbies.
- Study the vibe of a group before joining in the conversation.
- Do you want anonymity? Don’t join a group that a friend is in and avoid “public” groups because what you post may show up on your friends’ timelines, even if they are not in that group.
- Unfollow any pages that make you feel bad about yourself – if you’re on social media, it’s because you want a break from the real world for a few minutes (I repeat, a few minutes).
It is, of course, so important to learn and grow as an individual, and this means expanding your ideas outside of what you believe to be true; whether it’s political or spiritual. But social media does not need to be the place where you do your truth-seeking! It is full of toxicity, and one need not look far to find it.
You can, instead, create an experience that gives you a jolt of feel-good energy versus one that engages you in negativity. And, who knows? Maybe that feel-good energy will create a ripple effect on real-world interactions. We could all use some extra positivity!
An added bonus: I use social media apps less than I previously did (thanks, ScreenTime Report for letting me know!).
Is the invasion of privacy on social media acceptable? Not in the slightest. But I believe that cutting it out of my life is not going to stop that machine; plus, I happen to enjoy social media. So, instead, I’ve found my niche on social media in the form of Facebook “Groups” and by following accounts that provide “eye candy” on Instagram, you know, in the form of home decorating and adorable puppies. Yours is probably something different, of course, but if you find yourself feeling anxious yet you aren’t quite ready to leave social media, you may want to try this approach.